At its core, architecture is about building for communities. No one does community-focused architecture better than my friend, Sir David Adjaye, which is something I’ve always admired about his work.

Adjaye is a British-Ghanaian architect, born in Tanzania, who was inspired from a young age by the inaccessibility issues he saw around him. His brother was partially paralyzed, so he was often aware of how inaccessible certain buildings were and of how rundown the specialized school his brother attended was.

While at university at South Bank in London, he began work on designing a facility to provide better care and access for the disabled, a sign of what was to come in the community-driven projects that would make his career.

Adjaye’s philosophy in architecture is that it should serve the people it’s intended for. His egalitarian approach means that he is always focused on how he can make his work suit the community, like in the McCarter Switching Station, built in 2018. The emphasis of this project is clearly on the various multi-use community spaces, with dedicated areas for a market, informal gathering spots, and art installations.

Sir David Adjaye formed his own practice in 2000, Adjaye Associates. Today, he and his team work across the globe. Their largest project to date is the National Museum of African American History & Culture, which opened on the National Mall in Washington DC in 2016. 

The following year saw another great triumph, as Adjaye was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II and received the Royal Gold Medal, personally approved by the Queen herself. This is one of the highest honors in British architecture and shows the immense prowess behind his architectural work.

What’s even more important to me is his own personal humility. We have been able to interact on many occasions. I’m always struck by how normal he seems in person, while, at the same time, I know I am with a giant amongst giants. His architecture will still be known in the next century and we can’t say that about people too often.

To find out more about Sir David Adjaye and his work, visit the Adjaye Associates website and browse their portfolio of outstanding work.